In tune & making news together
In our Days Gone By series, we go back in time to tell the stories of proud West Australians. Featured this week is Pam and Bob Atkinson who ran the Harvey Caravan Park for many years before retiring.
Harvey residents Pam and Bob Atkinson are like two peas in a pod. They walk hand-in-hand around town with smiles that spill into the streets, spreading happiness as the go along.
They built their life on love, family and hard work and said they would not have had it any other way.
Over the years Bob has rolled and delivered more than six million newspapers to readers in WA. While Pam’s love of music led her to become a talented music teacher who has also spent 70 years playing the organ in Catholic churches around the State.
The couple said Harvey had a special place in their hearts and would always be home to them.
Bob grew up in Claremont where he left school at the age of 14. He was one of 11 children and worked in a wool store before being sent away with the shearing teams.
The city boy worked as a wool presser before becoming a wool classer several years down the track. The job was taxing, requiring him to work away for eight months of the year.
On one of his trips home, his friends invited him to a dance. That night, he met a girl named Pam. However, Pam did not actually attend the dance because she was busy studying for her piano recital.
She had gone at the end of the night in the hope of catching a lift into town to attend her recital.
I met Pam by chance that night.
“I thought she was beautiful.”
Pam grew up in Hamilton Hill in South Fremantle. She said all she ever wanted to do was play the piano.
“I used to skip recess at school so I could go to piano practice with the nuns,” Pam said.
I loved playing the piano and went to university to become a music teacher.
The new lovebirds soon had a stake wedged into their lives as Bob had to move away for work.
The teenagers would write letters to keep in touch while they were apart.
“We went through Geraldton and I stopped into a newsagency so I could buy a dictionary,” Bob said.
I wanted to check my spelling before I wrote her any letters.
“He thought I was a bit uppity,” Pam said.
Bob said he wanted to impress Pam because she was a university student and he was just a “rouseabout”.
The years ticked over before Pam and Bob decided to buy a newsagency in Safety Bay.
“In those days, you had to go in front of a board at The West Australian and The Sunday Times in order to show you were of good character to run an agency,” Bob said.
The pair were also in the first group of agencies to sell Lotto in WA. They even rebuilt their store after it was severely damaged in a wild storm that hit the area.
“I remember that night well,” Pam said. “We got a call from the police at 2am saying our shop was demolished.”
Pam and Bob moved to Harvey in 1994 after buying the Harvey Caravan Park.
“There were three caravan parks on the market at the time,” Pam said. “Ravensthorpe was suffering from drought and the Stirling Ranges had a two-storey house, but my mother was with us and could not climb stairs, so we decided to opt for Harvey.”
Bob won best commercial garden for his landscaping work while he was running the park.
“We have had a pretty good life overall,” he said. “All you have to do is say ‘yes dear’ even if you don’t hear what the question is.”
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